October 1718, Westminster, England.

August 29, 1782, Spithead (near Portsmouth), England. He and hundreds of sailors drowned when their ship, the Royal George, sank while undergoing repairs.

Westminster Abbey, London, England.



Of Swedish descent, Kempenfelt was commissioned a lieutenant in the British Royal Navy in January 1741. He became a captain in 1757, and admiral in 1780. He admired Whitefield and the Wesleys, and took a great interest in evangelism. His hymns were published in Original Hymns and Poems. By Philotheorus (Exeter, England: B. Thorn, 1777).

According to Town and Country magazine, Volume 14, 1782, the Royal George could not be raised, so Kempenfelt’s body was not recovered. However, his brother later funded a monument to him in Westminster Abbey, London. Its inscription:

In memory of Richard Kempenfelt Esqr. Rear Admiral of the Blue who was lost in His Majesty’s ship Royal George which overset and sunk at Spithead on the 29th of August 1782; by which fatal event about nine hundred persons were launched into eternity: and his King and country deprived of the services of a great and meritorious officer in the 64th year of his age. This monument was erected pursuant to the will of his brother, Gustavus Adolphus Kempenfelt Esqr, who died at his seat, Lady Place, Hurley, Berkshire, on the 14th March 1808 aged 87; of whose philanthropy and humanity his liberal subscriptions and bequests to most of the charitable institutions in this country will be lasting records.

On the Loss of the Royal George

Toll for the brave!
The brave that are no more!
All sunk beneath the wave,
Fast by their native shore!

Eight hundred of the brave,
Whose courage well was tried,
Had made the vessel heel,
And laid her on her side.

A land-breeze shook the shrouds,
And she was overset;
Down went the Royal George,
With all her crew complete.

Toll for the brave!
Brave Kempenfelt is gone;
His last sea-fight is fought;
His work of glory done.

It was not in the battle;
No tempest gave the shock;
She sprang no fatal leak;
She ran upon no rock.

His sword was in its sheath;
His fingers held the pen,
When Kempenfelt went down
With twice four hundred men.

Weigh the vessel up,
Once dreaded by our foes!
And mingle with our cup
The tears that England owes.

Her timbers yet are sound,
And she may float again
Full charged with England’s thunder,
And plough the distant main.

But Kempenfelt is gone,
His victories are o’er;
And he and his eight hundred
Shall plough the waves no more.

William Cowper, 1782

  1. Bear Me on Thy Rapid Wing
  2. Burst, Ye Emerald Gates (refrain grafted to The Great Physician)
  3. Gentle Spirit, Waft Me Over
  4. Hail, Thou Eternal Logos, Hail
  5. Hark! ’Tis the Trump of God
  6. O My Redeemer, Come